The U.S. Air Force is set to retire 44 of A-10 Warthogs in the next fiscal year, according to the fiscal 2021 Air Force budget documents the Trump administration sent to Congress on Monday.
After years of plans to further their usage in the military, the Department of Defense is trimming the number of older aircraft which includes the legendary Cold-War era planes, Military.com reported.
The move in its entirety is reportedly set to free hundreds of billions of dollars for newer planes as tensions between the United States, Russia and China are on the rise.
However, the Air Force awarded a contract to Boeing in August worth $1 billion to produce upgrades to the A-10 Warthogs. At the time, that decision had officials believing the A-10 Warthogs would be in service for the next decade, Defense One reported.
“[W]e are moving in the direction that we need to go after looking at our last few years doing land wars and now looking forward to a higher-end fight against an adversary that will have a higher capability,” the Joint Staff director of force structure, resources and assessment, Vice Adm. Ronald Boxall, said during a Monday briefing at the Pentagon, as Defense One reported.
The Trump administration’s first two defense budgets focused on readiness, such as training and maintenance, now its spending money on the next generation of weapons.
In the 2021 proposal, $107 billion is allotted for that next generation of weapons. Procurement would drop from $144 billion to $137 billion.
Todd Harrison, who directs defense budget analysis and the Aerospace Security Project at CSIS, thinks the move is the Pentagon’s way of hedging its bet and “that they’re afraid to let go of things completely.”
“They’re shooting themselves in the foot because they’re guaranteeing that they’re going to have a smaller force structure in the future by making partial fleet reductions now,” he added. “If you retire whole fleets, you get way more in savings, then you can buy a larger fleet in the future.”
Mark Cancian, a former Office of Management and Budget official who is now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “The broader question for all of the services, as force structure plans contract, is the political perception.”
“The budget has been going up, but now the forces are getting smaller, and what are we really getting for our money,” he added.
After entering the service in 1976, the A-10 Warthogs were most recently used in the fight against the Islamic State. They are able to fly for long periods of time, picking out ground targets with precision with its iconic Gatling gun designed to shred tanks.
“I have A-10s and I will use them, because they’re fantastic airplanes,” General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, chief of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, told Popular Mechanics in 2016 when the Pentagon previously considered retiring the plane. “Their guys are incredibly well-trained and they do fantastic work in support of the joint warfight.”
At the time of publication, the Air Force has 281 A-10 Warthogs in its inventory.